Bookish Pet Peeve #3: Useless Protagonists and the Special Snowflake Syndrome

Every book has a main character or a group of main characters. These individuals drive the story forward. Their personalities and their future directions are what makes a reader love them and connect with them. My favourite thing in the world is to connect emotionally with the main character(s) and experience the journey along with them.

But there are some books that feature the worst kind of MC: the useless ones.

We’ve all come across these characters at some point or the other. They have absolutely no personality, cannot figure anything out, and can’t seem to do anything on their own.


I’m not going to call out any books here, because that wouldn’t be nice and I’m trying to be nice, but every time I read a book and I face a character that is like this, it makes me want to scream.

I like badass characters that can handle a fight, that can handle betrayal, that can handle everything that their world throws at them. If the character has resolved to go on an adventure, then I want them to put their adventuring boots on and rise to the occasion. I absolutely hate when the character just sits there, moping all the time, waiting for someone else to figure things out, someone else to step up and do everything for them.

Because when this moping and this waiting-for-someone situation occurs, it makes me ask this question: why am I even reading this book?

I don’t want to spend my time trying to form a bond with a character that literally does nothing to help themselves. It’s the way I feel sometimes with friends who continue to make the same mistakes/do nothing to improve something in their lives, but then keep complaining about it – I have no patience for that (okay, I have more patience when it’s my friends but not for a character in a book)!

I’m not saying that the MC has to be perfect. Please, make the MC flawed, make them stubborn, make them do stupid things! But make them self-reliant. Don’t let them wait around for others. Because then I care more about the side characters than I do the main one.

The worst part of all of this is when the author tries to hide this aspect of their MC by using the special snowflake effect. For those of you who may not know what the special snowflake effect is, it’s actually a syndrome where you attribute some “specialness” to the character and so, treat them differently. To me, this is the easy way out in a story. When you have nothing to really help boost your character in terms of their personality, you throw all of these abilities at them, as if to tell the readers “See, this is why you have to love and care about the MC!”

Now, I do like when my MC is different. I don’t necessarily mind when my MC is the “Chosen One”… but that doesn’t excuse them from having no backbone. I usually characterize novels as utilizing the “special snowflake syndrome” when they don’t give their characters anything else other than these awesome talents. It just leads to poor character development, and then I’m not as invested in the story.

So I’m done ranting … but now, it’s time to hear from all of you!

Have you encountered the special snowflake syndrome? Or how about characters that are just plain useless?

How do you deal with books like this? Are they automatic DNF’s or do you push through anyways?

Let me know in the comments!!!

0 thoughts on “Bookish Pet Peeve #3: Useless Protagonists and the Special Snowflake Syndrome

  1. If I can’t relate and I think the characters are useless or doesn’t stick to my heart – I’m usually dropping the book and move to the next one. I think I love mysterious scary characters the most

    1. I’m the kind of reader that has to finish a book to the bitter end, even if it sucks so I stick it out and try to see if the story has any redeeming features.
      Mysterious or creepy characters are definitely my favourite!

  2. Well…I recently finished Caraval and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed it, I didn’t really connect to Scarlett. But I’ll discuss all that in the review and discussion (it’ll be up in June xD)

    I have no qualms about naming two characters who, I could quite gladly punch in the face. Bella from Twilight and Elena from The Vampire Diaries. Bella’s personality is non existent instead she’s whiny and the series hinges on the love triangle to be perfectly honest, when I was younger I loved the series. But as I got older I just…I saw how terrible Bella was as a character how she treated Jacob and also Edward at times.

    As for Elena, The Vampire Diaries may be better known as its TV series but it was loosely based on the books. I’ve read all but one I think. She’s self centred, whiny and thinks everything revolves around her OH and she can’t choose between Damon or Stefan who are brothers. I mean obviously that’s a really hard choice to make. *glowers*

    I tend to use these two as examples for what NOT to do with a character. The story as a whole, is alright in both instances its just they made the main character in both cases too whiny, useless, and about as interesting as a paper bag.

    Great discussion girl! <3

    1. Oh yes, Bella and Elena will forever be on the list of useless protagonists. The whiny characters are the worst but I also hate when the author makes the MC a gentle character who balks at every dangerous situation and cries all the time when she (because it’s almost always a female MC that is useless and not a male, which bugs me even more because women are NOT weak) thinks about her life.
      Thanks so much for commenting, love 😗

      1. I totally agree with you! Just for a change they could make the guy be the weak one, but that’d be too much to ask I think. No worries girl 🙂

    1. Hahahaha we do know 😉😉
      Honestly I’ve come across this so many times and no matter how interesting the story is, the useless MC just ruins my reading experience completely, to the point where I wonder why I wasted my time at all.

  3. Ahh I totally have this pet peeve too! It’s not often that I come against such MCs but they’re quite often present in books that I’m asked to review and I somehow have to push through 😧😧😧

    It’s absolute TORTURE!

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